From Town Band to School Bands: A Brief History
NOTES DA CAPO – By John L. Puffenbarger, WVMEA Historian
The town band in
Men and boys were the primary participants and were taught to play by various methods - self-taught, private instruction, and in the local town rehearsals. New and used instruments were obtained from various music businesses and from individuals. The average size of the bands around 1900 was ten to fifteen players, with an instrumentation of mostly brass instruments, two or three percussionists, and an occasional clarinetist and/or saxophonist.
Town bands were organized in most communities throughout the country. Rupert Hughes, eminent musicologist and writer on music, stated, "by 1897 Sousa marches had been sold to 18,000 bands." It appears to be impossible to prove that the statement is true; however, the Carl Fisher Publishing Company grew so fast in 1900 that it had to expand its building.
Around 1942, the
town band began to decline, and the young school band movement, which had begun
during the 1920s, filled the void. It is believed that the town band declined
because of the technological developments of the twentieth century and a
changing society and lifestyle. The music industry saw this development as a
new source of business and vigorously promoted school bands. Who were the music
pioneers who began the school band movement in
Band was organized in 1927 by D.M. Whetstone, a leading figure in the development
of school bands. By 1929, there were 40 members in the group. Lawrence Cappilenti contributed much to the growth of the band in
the 1950s. The 120 member band, under the direction of Jim Porter, attended the
Y.F.W. National Convention in
Harold Leighty organized the first Magnolia High School Band in
New Martinsville in 1926. In 1935, he transferred to
Mr. Christianson (first name unknown) organized the first band
The Elkins High
School Band was formed during the 1928-29 school year. Phillip "Prof'
Davies served as the
Buckhannon-Upshur High School Band was established in 1923 when II boys at the
school developed an interest in having a band. Seward Reese became the director
of the group, and Bartlett L. Lyons, who was also director at
School bands were not the only musical groups developed during the first half of the twentieth century as choirs and orchestras also began to flourish during this time. For instance, the first organized Shepherd College Choir sang before the college assembly on November 4, 1936. Professor Carl 1. Farnsworth was instrumental in organizing the choir. Professor Asa Bush, who created the music program at the college, taught a class in vocal music without compensation to promote the new program.
What about the music program in your school? Who were the music pioneers who started the choir, orchestra, or band programs? If there is no history of these groups in your department, take time to do some research. Interview some parents in your community who may have participated in one or more of the organizations. After you have gathered some facts, take time to write an historical document about music education in your community, and send a copy to me so that I can place it in the WVMEA archives. Your efforts will enrich the musical heritage of your school.